Once a major epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the Big Apple is slowly coming to life again. After months under lockdown, several museums are getting ready to reopen to the public, albeit a socially distanced, face-covered one.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) reopens Thursday, while The Metropolitan Museum of Art reopens its Upper East Side location on Saturday. The American Museum of Natural History plans to reopen Sept. 9, followed by the 9/11 Memorial Museum on Sept. 11 and the Guggenheim on Oct. 3.
"There are a lot of unknowns out there. We don't know whether people will feel comfortable coming back. We don't know whether they'll feel comfortable being with several hundred people indoors, even if we're a very large space," Glenn Lowry, MoMA's director, told the Associated Press (AP).
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In Washington, D.C., where most of the Smithsonian museums remain closed, the National Zoo and Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum have already reopened to the public with limited, timed-entry passes and preventative measures, including required face coverings.
But that doesn't mean the other institutions are completely dormant. The National Museum of African American History and Culture has actively been collecting artifacts from recent events and protests, while others, including the National Portrait Gallery, have focused their efforts on virtual outreach and programming.
"The world is our oyster," Kim Sajet, director of the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, said in an interview with The Hill's editor-at-large Steve Clemons for the Coronavirus Report.
The Smithsonian, like many other museums, has lost millions of dollars in revenue from gift shops and restaurants, among other things, Lonnie Bunch, the Secretary of the Smithsonian, told Federal News Network.
"No one wants to lead during a pandemic," Bunch, who was elected secretary of the Smithsonian in May 2019, told FNN. "In many ways, this has been a horrible crisis. In other ways, it's been an opportunity to really move the Smithsonian forward in its goal to be a more nimble, 21st-century institution. Would I have liked to have an easier time? Absolutely. But as we used to say in my neighborhood, you deal the cards that are dealt you."
In New York, Regan Grusy, vice president of strategic partnerships at the New Museum, told the AP that museums are also facing increased costs during the coronavirus pandemic, hiring more staff and investing in touchless bathrooms and costly air filtration systems
"Every institution is having to look long and hard at their financial model and scale back, postponing and canceling programs and events while simultaneously pushing forward on all fundraising cylinders," Grusy told the AP.
Some museums are getting creative, selling face masks with their logos and artwork on them. But the MoMA is not charging visitors at all for the first month after it reopens.
"It just felt like the right gesture," Lowry told AP. "I think once you've lost a lot of money, losing a little bit more isn't really the big issue."
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